In what could only be described as one of the most powerful performances in recent Chicagoland harness racing history, Bob Phillips Al's Hammered completely devastated nine other three-year-old pacing colts to win the $178,000 Pete Langley Memorial by nine and a half lengths in a stakes record 1:48.4.
The win was not without its anxious moments though as Al's Hammered was forced to survive a steward's inquiry regarding an incident at the top of the stretch as he was powering past horses.
Getting away seventh as NJ's Big Deal and Ice Scraper battled through brisk opening splits of 26.2 & 54.0 driver Robert Smolin maneuvered his charge to the outside as the field headed to the half.
"After the draw last Wednesday that's exactly how I envisioned things working out," said a relieved Smolin. "Once I was out there with cover and saw that half in 54.0 I felt pretty confident."
Picking up cover around the far turn, Smolin decided it was time to go as the field hit the top of the stretch and the long striding son of Droppin'thehammer-Albert'sMagic exploded four and five wide around horses.
"He was really relaxed out there tonight and I could have moved him at any time the way he felt," explained Smolin. "I saw that the lead horse was coming back to everybody though and thought if I could get the jump on the field that would be the time."
In the blink of an eye, the Phillips trainee has put five lengths between himself and the rest of the field and was long gone as he cruised under the wire with his eighth win. Crime Of Passion (Marcus Miller) was second while Fox Valley Mahalo (Todd Warren) finished third.
After the race Smolin finally had a chance to take a deep breath and think about what he'd just accomplished.
"I've never been in a mile that went that fast in my life yet seemed to take so long."